Copenhagen & Malmö: Scandinavian sustainability superstars

Skål!I was recently in Copenhagen, Denmark for the Nordic Environmental Social Sciences Conference. Afterwards, I took a few days to return to one of my all-time favorite sustainability stars – Malmö, Sweden.  Having studied and worked in Southern Sweden, I always enjoy returning ‘home’ and remain fascinated by how these two cities continue to drive urban sustainability forward. Granted, I used to work at the Malmö Environmental Department, so I am well-aware of the city’s sustainability vision; even now (in Amsterdam) I’m a researcher on city climate strategies. So, yes… this is my area of expertise and also my passion. Still, living a sustainable lifestyle in Copenhagen or Malmö is not just for the faithful treehuggers or urban planners – it’s for everyone.

Copenhagen cycle
Copenhagen cycle culture
Malmö mural
Malmö mural
IMG_0965
Malmö Folketspark

Copenhagen has a bicycle commuting rate of 36%; in Malmö, this is about 40% – on par with Amsterdam.  Both cities emphasize organic food in their public procurement – which is echoed by their citizens.  Copenhagen boasts the highest consumption of organic food in the world, while Malmö has adopted a food policy emphasizing organic food in schools, less food waste and lower meat consumption.  As global food waste and meat consumption continue to climb, this is a welcomed strategy. Concerning green space, Copenhagen recently adopted a mandatory green roof policy, while Malmö hosts the Scandinavian Green Roof Institute and encourages green roofs as part of its green space factor and green point system. Malmö was first spotted on the sustainable cities’ map with its 2001 Western Harbour Housing Expo, called Bo01, featuring an emphasis on green space, slow transport as well as 100% renewable energy. The Western Harbour continues to expand, testing the latest in green technology and planning ideas. Malmö builds on this in other districts and continues to push the envelope – political leaders refer to sustainability as a journey. Not surprisingly, an important part of its journey has been stable and visionary political leadership, such as that of Mayor Ilmar Reepalu who has served Malmö since 1994. In addition to civic leadership in Copenhagen, the city is also home to world-renowned architects and urbanists (such as Life Between Buildings author and my personal mentor, Jan Gehl). Copenhagen has also adopted its Climate Plan 2025 – to be carbon-neutral by 2025, as well as its Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan. In Malmö, by 2020, the local authority will be climate-neutral and by 2030 the whole municipality will run on 100% renewable energy.  I could go on – I love these cities for many things, starting with their emphasis on sustainability and quality of life. But, I’ll stop here. Let’s just say there is healthy competition in the Öresund region to out-eco the other.  No complaints there!

Policies and strategies aside, now when I return to Copenhagen and Malmö, I do so as a visitor – camera in hand, keen to capture just the right image of these cities of sustainability.

In both Malmö & Copenhagen you can find lean-to bars for cyclists at intersections - a footrest while you are waiting and a handy bar to help you push away when the light turns green.
In both Malmö & Copenhagen you can find lean-to bars for cyclists at intersections – a footrest while you are waiting and a handy bar to help you push away when the light turns green. (This one in Copenhagen.)
Copenhagen: Den Grønne Sti - a green cycle path through the centre of the city
Copenhagen: Den Grønne Sti – a green cycle path running through the centre of the city
Copenhagen: Cycling or walking? There is space for both along Copenhagen's central lakes
Copenhagen: Cycling or walking? There is space for both along Copenhagen’s central lakes
In Copenhagen: cycle lanes are clearly separated from car traffic - on raised platforms and using parked cars as a protection barrier from moving vehicles.
Copenhagen: cycle lanes are separated from car traffic – on raised platforms and using parked cars as a protection barrier from moving vehicles.
Copenhagen: intersections are cleary marked for cyclists
Copenhagen: intersections are clearly marked for cyclists
Copenhagen: I love big cities where young boys can safely walk to school.  Less cars = safer streets and less pollution.
Copenhagen: I love big cities where young kids can safely walk to school. Less cars = safer streets, less pollution and more personal freedom.
Copenhagen: Even murals feature bikes
Copenhagen: Even city murals feature bikes
Copenhagen: how much space does it take to park a bicycle vs. a car?
Copenhagen: how much space does it take to park a bicycle vs. a car?
Malmö cycling strategies: making it obivous - parking one car or 15 bikes
Malmö cycling strategies: making it obvious – parking one car or 15 bikes
Malmö: Hipster cyclists
Malmö: Hipster cyclists
Malmö cycling strategies: On the back of the blue bike it states "it's ridiculous close to most things in Malmö." In the other photo, a cyclist passes a bicycle counter.
Malmö cycling strategies:
Left: On the back of the blue bike – this one designed for civil servants – it states “it’s ridiculous close to most things in Malmö.” So go by bike.
Right: A cyclist passes a bicycle counter.
Malmö: This garden, coordinated by Ecolivs (a local food shop) and partners, serves to offer free local veggies for passersby - bringing green space and local edible goodness to the neighbourhood.
Malmö: This garden, coordinated by Ecolivs (a local eco-shop) and partners/ sponsors, offers free local veggies for passersby – providing green space and local edible goodness
Malmö: urban agricultural initiatives are popping up all over the city
Malmö: urban agricultural initiatives are popping up all over the city
Copenhagen: even the smallest balcony can produce something to eat - here peas strawberries and herbs
Copenhagen: even the smallest balcony can produce something to eat – here peas, strawberries and herbs
Malmö: more than just local policies, local entrepreneurs and shop owners cater to the eco-concious consumer.
Malmö: more than just local policies, local entrepreneurs and shop owners cater to the eco-conscious consumer.
Malmö recently hosted the Eurovision Song Contest, and took this as an opportunity to advertise environmental lifestyles. Case in point, a bottled-water company wanted to sponsor the contest, but was refused - because the city wanted to promote its high quality tap water as a more environmentally-friendly option.
Malmö recently hosted the Eurovision Song Contest, and took this as an opportunity to advertise environmental lifestyles. Case in point, a bottled-water company wanted to sponsor the contest, but was refused – because the city wanted to promote its high quality tap water as a more environmentally-friendly option.
Advertisements

10 thoughts on “Copenhagen & Malmö: Scandinavian sustainability superstars

  1. Great post! I miss both and wouldn’t mind me a Tuborg right about now.

    I’m curious about the last picture on the right. I know it’s supposed to be ecolicious, but all i see is E.coli. That’s the marketing side of me coming out…

    1. Haha… I never saw that! Funny. But I assume that this was designed by a non-native English speaker and that didn’t come to their mind. However, I guess one benefit of local food & small scale production – reducing the chances of E.coli breakout! 🙂

  2. Hey – I live in Malmo and was wondering whether the city provides apartment owners / buildings with any incentives or information on becoming carbon neutral / net positive? I hear of lots of great progress for the city itself, but what about encouraging all residents to live more sustainable lives at home?

    Matt

    1. Hi Matt. Good question. As far as I remember (and I have now been in Amsterdam for 3 years) there are several programmes aimed at residents. However, these can vary depending on the target audience (e.g. specific neighbourhoods, school kids, etc.) I know in Augustenborg smart meters were installed some years back (at least temporarily) and Western Harbour has various schemes to reduce energy. I know a focus on energy & resident participation has also been an important part of the retrofit underway in Rosengård. Several schools have meters they use as part of their education, as well as solar and urban wind. There was a ‘climate smart’ home programme as far as I recall, but I can’t remember the full name of it. (When I worked in Malmö, it was more with international communication than resident outreach, but there are certainly also persons working with sustainable lifestyle initatives as well).

      If you want to know more though, I would stop by the Environment Department (Miljöförvaltningen on Bergsgatan). There should be info available to residents or you could perhaps even set up an appointment with someone.

      Good luck and enjoy Malmö! I miss it dearly!

    1. Hi Boris. Nice to hear from you and thanks so much for the compliment. Of course you can use it. I only ask if you please cite it (Jennifer Lenhart, Urban Observer… or something like that) … whatever your “policy” is :). I’d love to read the final write-up!

      You can also email me (at: jenn.lenhart@gmail.com) if you have other questions.

      All the best from the cycle-city of Amsterdam!
      Jenni

  3. Hello Jennifer, I’m journalist and photographer. I make a great reportage about urban argiculture. Your blog is very interesting. Thank you. I’m looking for the right place in Malmö to make a reportage. But I don’t find preciseley where. Could you please help me? Kind regards. Véronique

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s